Responding to criticism from Media Matters about his claim that "[n]obody" on Fox News advanced the false claim that under the health care legislation individuals could go to jail for failing to purchase insurance, Bill O'Reilly claimed that when "jail time" had been "on the table," Fox had reported on it, but no one on Fox made the claim after that provision was supposedly removed. In fact, the health care bill Fox had been reporting on also did not have "jail time" as a penalty for not having health insurance.
O'Reilly now claiming he was referring only to the "final bill," "jail-time was" in previous versions
O'Reilly: "Nobody at Fox News reported inaccurately about the Obama-care prison situation." On the April 15 edition of his Fox News show, O'Reilly stated:
O'REILLY: Last fall, when jail time was on the table, Fox News reported on it, as we should have.
Now, as we all know, the prison option was taken off the table when the final Obamacare bill was being debated. And that's what we were talking to Senator Coburn about -- the final bill debate, not all that stuff. So, what I said is absolutely true: Nobody at Fox News reported inaccurately about the Obamacare prison situation. Nobody. Yet Media Matters, as they always do, distorted the entire situation. Shamefully, NBC News and Time magazine lapped up the garbage and put it right out there.
Fox figures pushed false GOP talking point that House version of the bill penalized failure to buy insurance with jail time
Fox relentlessly pushed the jail-time falsehood about House bill. After House Ways and Means Committee ranking member Dave Camp (R-MI) stated in a November 2009 press release that under the House health bill, "failure to comply with the individual mandate to buy health insurance... could land people in jail," several Fox News personalities falsely claimed that under the bill, in the words of Dick Morris, "you can actually go to jail for not having health insurance." Those personalities included Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Andrew Napolitano, and Greta Van Susteren, as well as Fox News' website Fox Nation and a Fox & Friends on-screen caption.
House bill did not punish those who do not have insurance with imprisonment. Those Fox News figures distorted the provision of the bill that required individuals to be covered by a minimum level of health insurance or pay a tax. In a letter, the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) stated that if individuals did not have adequate health insurance and refused to pay that tax, they could be subject to "civil and criminal penalties for noncompliance," just like they would be if they failed to pay other types of taxes. The committee's letter explains that the tax code provides penalties to prevent tax evasion of any sort: "The Code provides for both civil and criminal penalties to ensure complete and accurate reporting of tax liability and to discourage fraudulent attempts to defeat or evade tax." [Joint Committee on Taxation letter, 11/5/09]
Most delinquent taxes and penalties "collected through the civil process," not the criminal process. According to the JCT letter, fewer than 100 people were convicted for "willful failure to file or pay taxes" in fiscal year 2008. Instead, the letter states that "The majority of delinquent taxes and penalties are collected through the civil process."
Cavuto "researched this," admitted "a number of Fox personalities" made the false claim
Cavuto: "I've researched this, and a number of Fox personalities had made that comment." On the April 14 edition of Your World, Cavuto responded to Sen. Tom Coburn's (R-OK) prior statement during a town hall meeting that contrary to a constituent's claim, the idea that individuals could be put in jail for not having health insurance under the recently-passed health care legislation "makes for good TV news on Fox but that isn't the intention." Cavuto admitted to Coburn regarding the jail-time falsehood: "You're quite right, I've researched this and a number of Fox personalities had made that comment."